Breaking out of a traditional consumerist mindset is challenging.
When I started pursuing minimalism, it made me question everything – the things I own, how much I actually need, how much waste I produce, and how our whole world revolves around “things”.
Now that I’ve completely changed my value system and my way of thinking when it comes to “things”, I’ve realized that there are some common behaviors and mentalities in the minimalist movement that hinder, rather than help.
There is some information out there that simply does not make sense – these misconceptions about the lifestyle can lead to waste, discouragement, and detachment from the core idea of minimalism (not letting your things own you).
While minimalism as a whole is an amazing thing, I’ve found that sometimes minimalists can fall into these four ways of thinking that aren’t actually conducive to living a better life:
Thinking you need to replace your old items with more expensive things
I’ve noticed that this is the main problem many have with some prominent minimalists. They preach getting rid of things, only to upgrade with a more expensive item, thinking that they will have it for life and that they will be happier with the item for longer.
Of course, this is not always the case.
In the book “Goodbye, Things” by Fumio Sasaki, he writes that there is a limit to how much happiness we can feel. While there is something to be said for quality and longevity of items, it is often unlikely that a more expensive item will keep you happier in the long run.
For example, when I finished university, I treated myself to a $500 designer handbag thinking that I would be happy with it for life. I quickly found that it was too heavy and that it didn’t suit my lifestyle. I ended up selling it 2 years later for a fraction of the price and downgraded to a basic bag that served the same purpose.
On the flip side, my husband and I splurged on a Herman Miller chair after our wedding, after trying a few chairs that were unsuitable for sitting at our desk for hours at a time. We still own that chair and have never regretted spending that much for it – we will probably never buy another office chair and it will last for decades.
In summary, don’t fall into the trap that expensive is better. This may be true of some things, but your needs change over time – it does not make sense to buy all new expensive things, thinking that you will have them for life.
Chances are, you already have everything that you need. Get rid of the excess and buy the best quality you can afford when you need to replace something (quality does not always equal more expensive).
Don’t spend all of your money trying to achieve a minimalist lifestyle.
Getting rid of everything on a whim
Also known as “throwing the baby out with the bathwater”.
This is another common misconception about minimalism – that it’s about throwing away all of your things, without consideration of what you might need in the future.
Doing this is wasteful and will be time-consuming down the road when you have to go out and buy/borrow the thing that you need. It’s a shortsighted view of minimalism.
As I mentioned in my first post, minimalism doesn’t need to be a numbers game. Reducing your items just for the sake of it is another form of being obsessed with things.
Be a minimalist for the long-haul – realistically evaluate the things you have when you’re decluttering. Don’t save something for a “what if” moment (are you really going to dress up as a piece of bacon for Halloween again? Doubtful. Sell or donate the costume and don’t buy such a ridiculous clutter item again!), but think of the things that come up in day-to-day life. I like the following rules when considering whether or not to get rid of something:
- Does it bring you joy?
If so, keep it.
- Have you used it in the past year?
Unless it was a one-off situation, keep it.
- Did you forget that you even owned it?
Get rid of that clutter!
Remember that it is okay to like and to own things. Simply get rid of the unnecessary.
Expecting others to live the same way
This is the pitfall I’ve fallen into the most.
I find it hard to relax in cluttered spaces and will almost always comment on the clutter when I’m in someone else’s space.
But criticizing friends and family for holding on to too much stuff is generally futile.
Remember that reframing the way one lives their life is a big deal and changing the way someone thinks about their stuff can’t happen overnight. Everyone is attached to things in their own way, and some genuinely enjoy having a lot of things.
I’ve found that simply talking about why I’m a minimalist helps to inspire more than preaching does. If a loved one is open to reducing the things they own, help them out as needed, but don’t expect them to become minimalist right away.
Losing sight about what it’s really about
It’s easy to become obsessed with the idea of minimalism.
But purging your items constantly and upgrading all of your things is just as negative as materialism.
Minimalism should be a means to an end and not an end in itself. Think of it as a journey rather than a destination.
For me, minimalism has made me a more conscious consumer, more mindful about the way I live my life, and more aware of the waste I produce.
If you live according to these values, you’ll find that you become a minimalist naturally.
Have you ever fallen into these behaviors or ways of thinking?
Let me know if you’ve experienced any other negative aspects of minimalism in the comments below!